Blog | Tuesday, July 10, 2012

QD: News Every Day--Patients favorably rank doctors online, giving an average of 4 out of 5

Patients rank their doctors favorably online, despite physicians' fears of bad comments and the occasional lawsuit over bad reviews.

Researchers reviewed data from, sticking with this one site because it has the most reviews, its reviews are purely voluntary and the site began in 2004, four years before many other ranking websites. Researchers then compared reviews to information available about doctors in the Department of Health and Human Services' Area Resource File, and then a subset of data from the Virginia Medical Board, which provides a tremendous amount of data about physician training and certification.

Results appeared online at the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

One in 6 practicing physicians had been reviewed online. Obstetrician/gynecologists were twice as likely to be rated as primary care physicians (32.43% vs. 16.25%; P less than .001).

The average quality rating based on the physician's helpfulness and knowledge was 3.93 out of 5. Nearly 46% received 5 out of 5, while nearly 12% were rated below 2.

Based on the subset of Virginia physicians, those graduating from medical school after 2000 were much less likely to be rated. Physicians who were board certified were more likely to be rated. Graduates of more highly ranked medical schools were rated with nearly the same frequency as graduates of lower-ranked medical schools.

The authors wrote, "Although some physicians are concerned that online ratings will become a channel for disgruntled patients to vent their complaints, our findings suggest that this is not the most common reason patients use the rating system. In fact, given that nearly half the physicians received a perfect 5 out of 5, online ratings appear to be driven by patients who are delighted with their physicians."